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Cars & Pet Safety: How Do I Transport Exotic Pets?


Millions of American households today have one or more pets as part of the family. According to the Humane Society of the United States, there are an estimated 83.3 million dogs and 95.6 million cats owned in this country. There are also untold numbers of more exotic pets, ranging from hamsters to cockatiels to rabbits, monkeys and snakes.

Sometimes, you need to transport pets from one place to another. The proper way to do that with dogs and cats is fairly well-known, but how do you transport exotic pets?

The answer isn’t as complicated as it may seem. Here are some guidelines:

Do not allow free roaming. The first cardinal rule is that no pet should be permitted to roam free in the vehicle, no matter what type of animal (or bird or reptile, etc.) it is. Abrupt changes in the environment, sudden braking, wind noise, kids playing, loud and unexpected noises from outside the car can easily spook pets, causing them to leap or squirrel their way underneath pedals, jump or slither into your lap, obscure vision and imperil safety.

Secure exotic pets in appropriate carriers, crates or cages. Pet safety experts recommend transporting all pets, exotic ones included, in the appropriately sized pet carrier, cage or crate.

  • Birds – The best travel method for feathered friends is a small house cage or carry cage. If you don’t have one of these, an alternative is a small cardboard box with holes for ventilation. To keep the bird from becoming overly stressed by scenery flying by, cover the cage. Don’t keep water in the cage during the trip as it is likely to slosh all over the place with car movement. If the trip is lengthy, stop and provide water for the bird. Be careful not to have the air conditioning too low and also don’t place the cage in direct sunlight which can overly heat the bird.
  • Fish – A Ziploc bag or plastic bag could be used in a pinch, but a clean plastic container with a lid with sufficient surface room for oxygen is preferred for fish traveling in the car. Make sure the container has never held any chemicals. If possible, use battery-powered aeration, say the experts.
  • Snakes – Calico bags and plastic boxes with click-shut lids and air holes are appropriate for snake transport in vehicles. If using a box, line the bottom with newspaper for the reptile to grip. Take care that the car isn’t too hot or cool during the transport by maintaining a good temperature in the vehicle.
  • Frogs and amphibians – While your child might want to carry a pet frog in his pocket, the proper way to travel with frogs and amphibians is to place them in an opaque plastic container with a damp paper towel in the bottom to maintain humidity.
  • Rabbits and other small mammals – Use pet carriers that are commercially available to transport rabbits, mice, rats, guinea pigs, hamsters and other small mammals in the car. Place a towel, newspaper or a small box inside the carrier so that the animal feels secure and has someplace to hide.

Secure the carrier.  Use seat belts, specially-designed harnesses, tethers and clips. Do not put the carrier on the front passenger seat.

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